Germany entered semifinal play against Canada as a massive underdog, but delivered the upset of the tournament to head to the gold-medal game. Meanwhile, OAR booked their ticket with a shutout victory over the Czech Republic.
GERMANY HOLDS OFF CANADA’S LATE CHARGE, WILL PLAY FOR GOLD
Heading into the semifinal against Canada, many believed the surprising German run was set to come to an end. After all, Canada had been one of the tournament’s best teams, powerful offensively and tight-checking defensively, and appeared to have the edge at every position. But the magic that saw Germany, who won just once in preliminary play, defeat Switzerland in overtime and shock Sweden in an extra frame carried through into a meeting with the two-time defending Olympic champion nation as the Germans added another chapter to their Cinderella story.
The first sign Germany still had some magic left came midway through the first when Canada’s penalty trouble cost them dearly. With Linden Vey already penalized for high-sticking, Rene Bourque was hit with a face-off violation infraction that gave Germany a brief two-man advantage. They didn’t waste the opportunity, either, as Brooks Macek scored to give Germany the game’s opening goal. Canada would get a chance to draw level late in the first as Patrick Hager was whistled for tripping, but the German penalty kill kept the score 1-0.
That was key, too, as Germany built on their lead in the second. Little more than three minutes in to the period, Matthias Plachta doubled the German lead after a Canadian turnover resulted in a break the other way. And shortly thereafter, Germany took a shocking 3-0 lead when another turnover gave way to an odd-man rush that culminated with Frank Mauer tipping home a Marcel Goc pass. Canada would get one back, and finally got on the board, minutes later when Gilbert Brule rifled home a one-timer. The celebration didn’t last long, though, as Patrick Hager put Germany back up by three when he scored three seconds in to a German power play with roughly seven minutes left in the frame.
In the third, Canada charged hard from the opening faceoff. Nearly three minutes into frame, Mat Robinson started a break up ice and then finished the play all way at the German net when he took a pass from Christian Thomas, deked aus den Birken and backhanded one upstairs to cut the lead to two. Shortly thereafter, Germany had an opportunity to re-extend their lead to two when Dominik Kahun earned himself a penalty shot, but Poulin didn’t bite and blocked away a backhand attempt to keep the deficit at two. The stop was crucial, too, as the Canadian power play struck six minutes later when Derek Roy slung a puck to the front of the net that deflected off of a German skate and between aus den Birken’s legs to draw Canada within one.
From there, it was a furious finish. Across the final 10 minutes of the third, Canada peppered the German net and dominated possession as they pushed for the equalizer. But the Germans refused to allow any Grade A chances as the contest drew to a close. Be it by way of blocked shots or aus den Birken stops, Germany managed to keep Canada off the board, even killing a penalty in the process. And despite the push, the hole Canada had dug was too deep to climb out of as Germany pulled off a second straight upset victory to advance to the gold-medal game.
Win or lose against OAR in the final, Germany has now locked up its first Olympic medal in men’s hockey since West Germany won bronze at the 1976 Games in Innsbruck. Regardless of the outcome, though, this will be the best Olympic finish in German hockey history. As for Canada, the bronze-medal game against the Czech Republic gives the country a shot at medalling for the third straight competition. Canada’s last bronze was in 1968 at the Grenoble Olympics.
OAR ADVANCES AS OFFENSE OVERPOWERS CZECH REPUBLIC
In many ways, the Czech Republic game plan against the Olympic Athletes from Russia was as perfect as it could have been. Pitted against the tournament’s best offense, the Czechs were smothering defensively and did well to limit the OAR opportunities, bending as much as they cold without breaking at different points throughout the contest. In the first, for instance, the Czechs stood tall through an OAR power play and netminder Pavel Francouz was perfect to keep the game goalless.
But try as they might to keep OAR off the board, the Czech Republic finally cracked midway through the outing. Nearly eight minutes into the middle frame, Nikita Gusev was picked out by Pavel Datsyuk and made no mistake, firing the cross-ice pass by Francouz. And one goal was almost immediately followed by a second as Vladislav Gavrikov stretched OAR’s lead to two 27 seconds after they opened the scoring by slotting home a feed from Ivan Telegin on a 2-on-1 break.
The Czech Republic had their chances to get back into the game over the back half of the contest with three power plays, but OAR’s Vasili Koshechkin refused to let anything by, stopping all 31 shots he faced in the outing for his second shutout of the competition. And with Koshechkin taking care of matters defensively, Ilya Kovalchuk put a capper on the outing when he slid home an empty-netter to make the final score 3-0.
OAR now advances to the gold-medal game, where they will square off against the surprising Germans. While not in name, a trip to the final gives the Russian men their first shot at gold since 1998. They lost that meeting 1-0 to the Czech Republic.
1. Patrick Hager (GER): Assisted on Germany’s second and scored the game winner against Canada.
2. Vasili Koshechkin (OAR): Perfect against the Czechs, stopping 31 shots to send OAR to the final.
3. Matthias Plachta (GER): Goal and an assist in Germany’s shocking win over Canada.
Saturday, Feb. 24
Canada vs. Czech Republic (M), 7:10 a.m. ET — Bronze-Medal Game
Germany vs. OAR (M), 11:10 p.m. ET — Gold-Medal Game